|Feb. 22, 2017 | www.fisherphillips.com|
In this age of electronic communication, social media has added another dimension to the array of issues schools must address in order to maintain the integrity of the learning environment while also preserving the rights of students and employees. The courts are faced with numerous lawsuits arising out of school discipline for conduct such as cyber-bullying, harassment, or threats of danger, usually originating off-campus.
The schools are faced with balancing their need for order and discipline against students’ and employees’ rights of self-expression. How much can a school do to address off-campus activity that can impact the school environment? The answer depends upon whether you are a public or private institution.
In January this year, President Obama created the Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault to provide colleges and universities with recommendations to prevent and respond to sexual assault and enhance efforts to hold educational institutions accountable when they fall short in addressing sexual assault on their campuses. Recently, the Task Force issued its first report containing action steps and recommendations to assist colleges and universities in meeting their obligations to protect students from sexual violence.
While the first report is far from comprehensive, it offers a foreshadowing of the government’s increased effort to enforce Title IX and provides initial steps to assist institutions to prepare for upcoming enforcement efforts.
Educational institutions of all kinds often utilize the services of volunteers or so-called interns to assist with coaching sports or other extracurricular activities, and to participate in programs that are mutually beneficial. But the United States Labor Department (DOL) has issued clear guidance with respect to unpaid internships and the circumstances under which an educational institution’s current staff may be converted to volunteers, or others may serve as volunteers for certain purposes.